Wednesday, 24 February 2010

From Another Notebook

On the Taking of Notes:

An image becomes treasure, passed from mind to mind. We four are collectors of images.

One of us find bark, one finds leaves encased in ice. I write, 'encased in eyes'. Someone finds ice in water. Someone else notices the fog coming fast through the valley.

Item: dock stem rising from snow. Black-red shadow puppet, explosively notched and zing-rippling. Leaves hanging small, spriteish, black leaf soulish, vaguely hellish, hot and vibrant.

Item: meadow grass. Disconsolate, lonely and drooping.

Item: thistle.

Item: spine.

Snow like white linen.

We take nothing sappy, only what the year has already discarded. As we look at our images, turn them over, warm them, they are revivified, born to us. We exchange our time for their lives, our lives for theirs.

The snow turns from blue to white to blue again, as the sun rises and sets. We give our day to the snow and in return it gives itself to us.

Monday, 1 February 2010

From The First Quarter Notebook

photograph by Sian Thomas, © 2009

Notes on Woodland:

- Wood as a boundary, a between place on the edge of the village.

- Woodland as a narrative landscape. The stories it holds, hides and reveals.

- Landscape that feels wild, secret, hidden - but in fact is post-industrial. Marked and shaped and scarred by human activity, industrial and agrarian.

- Paths made by people, animals and water. Paths as a line of text or musical notation. What do they reveal to us? Footprints and tracks = words, phrases.

- What is the language of this landscape? How can we act as its interpreters?

- How am I 'confirmed' by this place and my habit of walking in it? How do I mark and transform it, and how does it change me?

- Hansel & Gretel, Babes in the Wood. Go to the woods/forest to lose ourselves and in the process find ourselves.

- Intimacy. Patrimony. Knowing a place like my own hand; creases, valleys, gullies, in landscape mimicking the folds and creases of my palm. Intricacy and intimacy.

Notes on Winter:

- Winter landscape, sculpted, laid bare, readable or legible. Superficially fixed (still) yet constantly changing, moving.

- Wheel; cycle of seasons; lowest point in the wheel's turning.

- Fire; sunlight; the impossible return.

- Winter solstice = day of reversal if not transformation. Yule. Saturnalia. Janus (gates, doorways, beginnings and endings. January). First day of winter is also last day of the year's descent into darkness. Birth = death. Darkest day.


This is true of all ancient places - cities as well as this woodland - that they exist in layers. One era, century, epoch is laid over another, sometimes as crudely as the false ceilings that in old Sussex farmhouses once concealed smoke-blackened beams. Usually, though, the layers are opaque, subtle, translucent and delicate as tissue paper.

In public places, in the countryside, this interlayering, is perhaps more evident. In a private house more care is taken to ensure the discomforting chinks don't show. No one relaxing in their sitting room wants past or future epochs bleeding through. And no one really wants to brush against a ghost on their way up the stairs to bed. Though it is precisely on the staircase and in hallways and corridors that domestic spirits cluster.

As John Berger reminds us, these interstices exist. Our world is not the only world. Rather we live in a shifting palimpsest of lives lived, and so of experiences, change and mutability. At boundaries and border places we are able, if keen enough, to sense this gentle colliding of orders. On thresholds; doorways; leaning out of windows; crossing an ancient square; entering a narrow passageway or walking an ancient path or road. We stumble. We fall through time into something, somewhere else.